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Is It In The Stars? A Look At The A's Future
Time flies! It's now early September and the A's find themselves in the middle of an exciting playoff chase, hopefully looking towards the post-season for the fifth time in six years. Astonishing really, since before the end of the muddling month of May the A's were 4-20, 15 games below .500, starting pitching was a disappointing 1-15 with a 5.58 ERA, and they fell a distant 12 games out of first place. So let's give credit and thanks for a truly remarkable turnaround as we face the forecast.
The planets began to align for the A's once again after a notoriously slow start. The All-Star Break ushered in its usual magical demarcation, clearly splitting the season into before and after. Injuries are now taking their toll, grinding down essential parts of the "little green engine that could." It will take a tremendous effort to get through this upcoming cycle. Can a relatively young ball club on the cheap compete with the star players and immense payrolls of the Yankees, Red Sox, and Angels?
When commenting on the extreme highs and lows of the A's offense over the past two weeks, in the September 7, 2005 issue of Sports Weekly, always-frank Sagittarius third baseman Eric Chavez, decried, "I've said it before. This team is going to go how the hitting goes. It's too much pressure for our pitchers to throw shutouts every game, we need to be consistent, especially against mediocre pitchers." With their three-hole hitter and reigning AL Rookie of the Year shortstop Bobby Crosby currently on the DL with a fractured left ankle, the A's have their work cut out for them, as they have relied on Crosby's presence in the lineup to play their best ball.
Wednesday's franchise best comeback win proved the popular baseball axiom, "it's never over till it's over." The September 7, 2005 miraculous victory against the Mariners marked the first time since 1968 (when the A's began playing in Oakland) that the team trailed by four or more run going into their final at bats and won the game. Perhaps this is the catalyst for much needed momentum and confidence to propel the A's further down the stretch.
Timing is everything. Let's see what the stars have in store for five of the A's in this crucial stretch drive. I've profiled Leo Huston Street, Aquarius Nick Swisher, Cancer Jason Kendall, and Sagittarians Rich Harden and Mark Kotsay. Since athletes are always looking for a competitive edge, Sports Astrology provides a valuable map of optimum timing. Baseball and astrology both run in cycles, and Sports Astrology illuminates a player's mental, emotional, and physical game in a more holistic way. I primarily focus on Mars, a crucial planet for an athlete as it represents energy, assertion, and action, and the Sun, which represents vitality.
Huston Street (August 2, 1983 Austin, TX)
Courageous Leo Huston has been miraculous, rising to the occasion of A's closer when Octavio Dotel went down early this season. If 18 consecutive saves and a minuscule 1.23 ERA isn't enough to impress, just remember he's only been out of college for one year! This potential Rookie of the Year is truly regal—already he's being compared to the Yanks' Mariano Rivera.
With Saturn (planet of limitation) currently in Leo, I'm concerned about Huston wearing down, especially in mid-September. After all, he's been closing lots of high-pressure games in his very first major league season. He must be careful! Perhaps he should be used more sparingly, especially when the game is not on the line. With wise and considered action, he can overcome obstacles and start building blocks for future goals.
Saturn rules the skeletal system—the back, bones, knees, and joints. The heart and lower back can also be vulnerable. And if you get caught in Saturn's karmic web, it can delay and deny. As Huston feels more tired, it's a good idea he stay replenished with extra rest, incorporating some TLC—a tall order for the polite, young Texan during a heated pennant chase. This aspect occurs only once every 29 years, bringing both fulfillment and difficulty. It's a time of tremendous responsibility and hard work. The energy of Saturn holds back the energy of the Sun, which is basic life energy. While Saturn confines and restricts, Huston can only do certain things. This career turning point suggests avoiding stressful situations, again, not an easy task for a closer.
For those A's fans on the ledge, planetary aspects do not occur in a vacuum. Jupiter (planet of expansion and good fortune) is also making a harmonious aspect to his Mars (energy), delivering much needed balance. Although more confidence is bestowed, Huston should be mindful to avoid subsequent burnout. In any physical activity, he shouldn't take foolish risk. With planning and restraint, this aspect proves to be a sign of opportune action that seizes the moment.
Nick Swisher (January 25, 1980 Columbus, Ohio)
Alas, Swish is the friendly Aquarius poster child for Saturn's rather harsh and relentless aspects. Currently Saturn in Leo is opposing his Sun in Aquarius, leading to very discouraging times. Vital energies are at a 29-year low! With the passing of his beloved grandmother (whose initials he engraved on his batting gloves), Swish is experiencing a profound sense of world-weariness.
To avoid an excessive strain on health, he should conserve energy. He'll have plenty of opportunities later, if he can hang on and be patient. Given the day off to "get his head right" for the Sept. 7th game vs., the Mariners, pinch hitting Swish began the 9th inning with a single, then ended the same inning rally by walking home the winning run. Perhaps that rare occurrence is a hopeful sign of things to come, for Swish and the A's.
Mired in a dreadful batting slump, when interviewed on Wednesday for A's radio "Rookie Report", Swish acknowledged that this season has been an emotional roller coaster. His dad, former major leaguer Steve Swisher, reminded Nick to "try and keep things on an even keel." High-strung Swish agreed, stating that it's a long season and "once the mind is tired, the body is tired." He vowed to not think so much, and to "use his god-given ability to play baseball." Trying to establish himself in his first full season in the major leagues has not been easy, as Saturn can be quite the taskmaster. This is a period of endings will be followed by new beginnings. Delay does not mean denial. In a recent radio interview on September 4th with A's announcer Ray Fosse, Swish pleaded, "I know time heals, but it needs to hurry up," perfectly capturing how time seems to stand still when we endure an obstinate Saturn aspect.
Health is at risk, in many cases as a direct result of a depressed or somber outlook. He needs to relax more and "not grind the bat into sawdust" as he reluctantly admitted. There may be difficulties with back, teeth and bones, and problems with authority. Life feels like an endurance test. Although the fruits of his labors are hard to see right now, his increased discipline can be used to discard any blocks on his path. If the universe is giving him lemons, he must make lemonade. A "to do'' list may be his best friend, especially since he may have to deal with decisions that throw off his balance. As he grows into maturity, he'll look back recalling how quickly "this too shall pass."
Jason Kendall (June 26, 1974 San Diego, CA)
It's crunch time, and tenacious Cancer Jason is another potential candidate for wearing down during the stretch, particularly during the end of September. This three-time All-Star is the highest paid player on the team this season with a $10 million salary. His on-base mark this year is .333, and his .302 slugging percentage is the lowest in the majors. A's Manager Ken Macha said, "he has some issues technically." Do the planets corroborate that? Yes, plus a whole lot more.
Saturn (limitation) in Leo hits Jason's Mars (energy) in Leo, rendering the singles-hitting catcher a likely casualty, well beyond normal wear and tear. In fact, this challenging aspect reoccurs in late June-July 2006, delivering a most unhappy birthday present. It's important to set pace now, as this is often a time of enormous frustration and ego dispute. Health is affected and can coincide with accidents, especially bone injuries, so vigilant care must be taken. As physical energies are curbed, he shouldn't do too much over too broad a spectrum—perhaps sit out even more games. It's beyond a rest here and there, at this point, for Jason to recharge.
Although more determined than usual, paradoxically, actions meet with resistance. Assertiveness and desire are put to the test. He may be saddled with a heavy workload and have trouble in competition. Even though seemingly thriving on work, now is NOT the best time to prove his point.
A's manager Ken Macha noted: "You try to do your homework when you get people." "Gerald Perry, the hitting coach of the Pirates, told me that Kendall played all these games and actually did better as the (2004) season wore on. He said, ‘don't worry about Kendall wearing down.'" My planetary research for Jason in September 2005 begs to differ—he has already maxed out for the season and things look progressively worse as the month wears on.
Rich Harden (Nov. 30, 1981 Victoria, BC )
Optimistic Sagittarius—maybe too optimistic for their own good! Fire signs can be impatient, so we can easily imagine Rich chomping at the bit for his next start. Diagnosed with a strained back muscle, Rich has been out of action since August 19, and has missed four starts. A's pitching coach Curt Young said there was a "slim chance" Harden would be ready for Sunday's game against the Rangers. "We're going to start him slow," vows A's skipper Ken Macha. The unlikely Sept 11, 2005 date is keeping green & gold fingers crossed throughout the Bay Area!
A's head trainer Larry Davis said, "We'll know for sure on Sept. 10…We'll use that date as a target, but everything has to go absolutely perfect in order for that to work." As perfection is best left to the baseball gods and goddesses, we mortals still hope for the unexpected. Blessed with a lightening bolt for an arm, A's fans miss watching his fastball whiz by the radar gun at 100 mph. "Frustrating isn't even the word," said an exasperated Harden, "it's worse than that." His 2.77 ERA ranks seventh lowest in the AL since the All-Star Break and his mighty 56 K's ranks fifth, plus he also posted a splendid 5-1 record in that span. Rich is currently experiencing a Uranus (planet of the unexpected or unusual) aspect. Uranus, the planetary trickster who revels in throwing mind-boggling curveballs, has turned Rich into the A's only wild card they can be assured of. During this aspect, sudden unpredictable changes are beyond control. More self-centered than usual, he may dig in his heels if anyone tries to stop him. Obsessed with winning, for this former hockey player, there's danger of impulsive, inappropriate acts. Calm consideration of consequences rather than confrontation are the keys for success during a tumultuous cycle.
Baseball is a game of adjustments and if Rich takes control, mid-September looks promising. Saturn in Leo makes a harmonious aspect to Rich's Sun in Sagittarius, giving him much needed patience and fortitude. Rich can reap what he deserves, as past efforts yield tomorrow's rewards. The danger at this time is losing long-term benefits in an effort for short-term gain. After all, we don't want Rich to hurry, just to wait!
Mark Kotsay (Dec 2, 1976 Whittier, CA)
Reoccurring back spasms have been derailing Mark on several occasions this season. His latest episode resulted in an epidural injection, marking the second time in the last 33 games that Kotsay missed his fourth consecutive game because of back pain (missing 14 in that span). Unfortunately his bat leaves a big gaping hole in the lineup, as the 19 games he was able to play in during that stretch, he batted .300 with 11 runs, 11 RBIs and 3 HRs. His "cannon" arm is also missed, as he is one of the leaders in most outfield assists since 1998. Simply put, when Mark plays, he produces.
Anxious to get back on track, but not at the expense of further injury, he's being cautious—the right approach to take. "It might feel great for two days and then all of a sudden be in agony," Kotsay bemoaned. Laboring under similar planetary aspects as Rich Harden, he's experiencing firsthand the unpredictability of a Uranus aspect. His task is to adapt as best as possible to the challenges around him. Although there's tension and stress associated with this aspect, Mark appears to have the necessary maturity to handle it.
To mitigate this dissension, in mid-September a positive Saturn aspect occurs, increasing leadership ability and smoothing out crisis. Although not a light-hearted time, he can get back in the swing of things and make considerable progress as long as he does not over-do it. Activities that may have seemed onerous in the past can now be tackled with patience and fortitude. He has the inner strength to persevere and can take well-considered steps forward.
Kotsay has been talking with other players, trainers, as well as the A's strength coach to devise a program that will give him the best chance to avoid future injuries. Among the suggestions are using fundamentals from techniques like pilates and yoga. Fresh off his Saturn return (an auspicious astrological rite of passage that occurs around age 29) there is an increased desire to work towards long-term goals and objectives. In July 2005, he received a three-year contract extension. The wind is blowing in his direction; it's a good point in time for making progress.
Sports Astrologer Andrea Mallis has appeared on ESPN SportsCenter, Baseball Tonight, ESPN News, and Cold Pizza. She's written articles for most Major League Baseball team magazines, ESPN.COM Page 2, and MLB.COM. She recently contributed to a forthcoming book on fantasy baseball, "Fantasyland" (due out in March 2006), and attended the baseball winter meetings in Anaheim, CA. She's the astrologer on the Oakland A's post game radio show "Extra Innings." Have Andrea guide you with your game—visit www.virgoinservice.com, email email@example.com, or call 510-874-4911.
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